I was totally inspired this week by Emily Woodhouse (of Travelling Lines) and her lovely post about how she started running. it reminded me that I had also started by accident, or perhaps more accurately by slightly devious design.
First of all you should go and read Emily’s post here: I got off the bus and ran 5 miles home.
I was always a skinny lad who could run a bit and I enjoyed middle distance and cross-country events at school but I had never thought of doing it outside the frame of what was required within school.
And then, when I was 16 years old and started studying A-Levels, we had every Wednesday after lunch we had the whole afternoon free from lessons for some kind of compulsory club. I suppose it was designed to encourage the students to take part in extra-curricular activities and broaden horizons which seems like a sensible idea.
However, I was a bit of an outsider and wanted to go home to be on my own or wander in the fields around my village and think about loneliness or clouds or dream I was Chris Townsend hiking the Yukon.
At the same time that this club initiative started the students were encouraged to set up their clubs with their own interests and get more like-minded people to join and build small communities of people with something in common.
I don’t think there is anyone who knows me and who would describe me as particularly cunning, but on this occasion I summoned the inner-Machiavelli and set up my own cross-country running club.
"the kind of thing that would look great now, prancing down the street in Shoreditch, but was excruciatingly embarrassing at the time"
The club was welcomed by the school as a good initiative - the idea being that every Wednesday afternoon we would meet and go for a run. I think I "forgot" to mention where, but I suppose I must have hinted it would be somewhere in the school grounds.
Anyway, I neglected to mention the Cross-Country Running Club to anyone other than a couple of friends who were signed up for other clubs and had no interest in it.
Then every Wednesday as the lunch bell rang, I would put on my second-hand Levi’s trainers - the kind of thing that would look great now, prancing does the street in Shoreditch, but was excruciatingly embarrassing at the time - and I would run.
I would run around 6 miles every Wednesday. I ran out of the school gates, past the caravan club and cricket pitch, into the park, out of the park, down the hill, up the hill, all the way to my front door.
Running opened up my Wednesday afternoons. Small rucksack on my back, come rain or shine, I left the school and ran home for lunch. Running gave me time to do what I am really good at… which to be honest is mostly sitting around day-dreaming.
Of course it wasn’t long before I started timing myself and enjoying the process not just the end result of getting out of school for an afternoon. When we moved from the country to a small city, I continued running.
Through the years I have gone through periods of running more or less, celebrating the good times, springing across sun-soaked countryside and pounding rain-sodden streets, crying away the bad times.
It is now 19 months since I ran outdoors (without doubt the longest period of my life), limited as I have been by meniscus damage in my left knee. But as I write this I am in a great place (literally and figuratively I suppose) so I am off out now, meniscus or no meniscus, to try to bring back a little of the athletic joy I first discovered in trying to get off school. I will report back in next week's post.
How or why did you start running?